The Haunting of Heck House [Revisited]

This is a post I wrote in May 2008. My friendly but antagonistic right-wing friend (Las Vegas Badger) reignited my memories of Mom & Dad's haunted house (now owned by my sister). And here, is the Haunting of Heck House.

Originally posted in May 2008:

Photos of the house on Robins Rd. by Author

I've recently read God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, and am nearly finished with The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Though the books are very different, both are excellent reads, and I agree with the authors in all major details. Save one.

Both avowed atheists, Hitchens and Dawkins make a very strong case for their lack of belief. And having read both books, I'd have to say that I've reached the point where I can say, I am an atheist too--as it pertains to religion. "Well what else would atheism pertain to?" you might ask. Good question. Most people who declare themselves atheists (both authors included) dismiss religions as false, but they also decline to apply the term "supernatural" to anything outside of fiction.

And that is where they lose me. I've personally experienced things that have no rational explanation that satisfies me. And since they have nothing to do with religion, I don't really understand why atheism has anything to say about it. Scientifically, I suppose, there is a natural explanation for everything. But read my story, and see if you have an explanation.

Strange things have happened to me for as long as I can remember. Things like knowing that my mother had a headache when she was in a different room. Asking my sister a question about something random that she was just thinking of herself. Reading an unusual word in a book, and hearing it repeated on TV seconds later (this happens a lot). Mentioning an obscure celebrity, only to have them pop up in the news the next day (often dead). Or seeing my grandfather in his pajamas at the end of the hall after he died. All of these things could have an explanation. Intuition, coincidence, a trick of the light. OK, in most of these cases, I can buy that.

But there was a strange series of events that occurred between 1984 and the early nineties that nothing can adequately explain to me. It was that year that my parents' business became successful enough to finally buy a new house. I was with them the day they found the one they ultimately did buy, the house on Robins Road. Mom loved the old brick house, which we later found was built in 1835 or so. She was so excited about it, she could barely disguise her glee in front of the Realtor, much to the distress of my step father. . .
Before the purchase was final, we took a drive around the area, down to the shore of Hoover Reservoir, several miles from the house. There, we found some fishermen, and Dad, being gregarious, struck up a conversation with them. Eventually, he got around to mentioning the house, and one of the fishermen was familiar with it. "You mean that old haunted house?"

That sort of thing might scare off some buyers, but not us. We found that kind of cool. The man told us that years before, the house had fallen into profound disrepair. He said that if you walked inside the front door, you could look up and see the sky--in the two-story house. This was confirmed later, by our second strange occurrence.

Back at our old starter house (on Robinwood Ave., not Robins Road), Dad decided to call the phone company to find out if the Robins house would be a local call to town. When he gave the operator the address, the phone went silent for several seconds. When Dad asked if she was still there, the operator exclaimed, "I used to live in that house!" Keep in mind, this was Columbus, Ohio, not exactly a small town, nor a small phone company.

The operator filled us in on her father's renovation of the house when it had been derelict, and other things, though I'm not sure if the subject ever came up about haunting. It was just a footnote at this point. The drawing together of these events only caught our notice after the really strange stuff began.

My parents were out of town the day the house became officially ours. I had just finished my senior year of high school, and was going to continue living with my parents while I started college. So, while enjoying my last summer off (ever), I decided to go ahead an move my own stuff into the empty house, with the help of my best friend. The house had been empty for several days. That's where the weird stuff starts, and I'll now try to catalog those things (though I may have forgotten some of it), in bullet points rather than strictly in paragraphs. And let me note, while it may be easy to poke holes in all of these anecdotes now, at the time we were absolutely sure of the sequence of events. Positive.
  • While moving in, my friend and I were each drinking a Vess soda, but mine disappeared. I was sure I'd left it on the porch, because I'd almost put it on a window sill, and thought better of it, not wanting to leave a ring. Thinking it had fallen off the porch, I looked all around, but it was gone. More on this later.

  • The first time I opened the closet in my new room (in an area that used to be a rear staircase), I found hundreds of wet, red spots on the back of the painted white wooden door.

  • On the shelf, in the closet, was a still cold bottle of Vess soda. My friend and I were both a little wigged out.

  • Wet, red spots were also found on the back of the door to the bedroom itself. But fewer than in the closet.

  • When our pets were let into the house, they ran straight up the stairs, down the hall, into my room, and began scratching at the closet door. When I opened the door, they sniffed around, and then left the room.

  • Days later, when I was at work, I called my mother, who was alone in the house. She'd answered on an early cordless phone, and the reception was terrible. She sat the phone on the window sill, and went upstairs to grab an extension. During our conversation, an audible click occurred, and our reception cleared up. After the call, when Mom went downstairs, the phone--previously on the sill--was back in its cradle.

  • Mom was going to go out, and had just applied lipstick. She went to the fridge for a Diet Pepsi (she was a Diet Pepsi addict), and took a very careful drink, and then put the soda back in the fridge. Upon her return, she went to retrieve the bottle, and it was gone. Dad was not home, and we kids hated Diet Pepsi. Later, she found the partially full bottle in the family room, on the fireplace mantle, between two of the prehistoric Indian relics displayed there. A place no one would have thought or dared to put it.

  • My sister heard voices calling her name repeatedly when no one was around. She also heard chains rattling.

  • My mother was driving a tractor with a bush-hog attached to mow the large grounds of the house. On one pass, she noticed that it was getting too dark to see, and thought to herself that she'd need to turn on the headlights. On her next pass, the lights--activated by a large knob that was difficult to twist--came on by themselves.

  • My mother and brother were the only ones home one night, when Mom was awakened by a racket from the kitchen. My brother was asleep in his room. When she got to the kitchen, the blender was running. An old-style "Osterizer" blender with buttons that take a serious push to start.

  • A very old photograph--probably late 1800s--was found intact in the middle of the driveway after a downpour. Dry.
  • My car key was found one morning, bent at a right angle--while it was just sitting on the table.

  • An escaped fighting dog ended up at our property--a red pit bull. Mom put her into the basement for the night, and she (the dog, not Mom) spent several hours staring intently into an empty corner, barking furiously. She had mange, so she was initially known as "the devil dog with leprosy." Her story gets weirder than that, but not necessarily unexplainable.
There is more, and I wish I would have kept a journal to get all of the details. We later got stories from previous residents with tales of unexplained beverages moving or being spilled, salt on the counters, the sound of footsteps on the back staircase--which no longer existed.

We ourselves had incidents of massive insect infestations: flies, carpenter ants, bees. At least one more incident with soda, and another with the phone. A cat's body that was split up the side, but had no blood. Several unusual pet deaths.

It's unfortunately starting to get fuzzy. But in each incident I noted, we were certain of the events. There was no "well maybe this is what happened. . ." kinds of thoughts bandied about. We were utterly sure, each time. And none of this is counting the weird things we thought we could explain, but were still. . .well weird.

We called our ghost "Thomas" after the builder of the house, Thomas Gorsuch, because we were able to find the graves of several of his family members, but we were unable to find his. Eventually, after all of the accounted events had occurred, Thomas became shorthand for anything we couldn't explain. Three of the children in his family all died in separate years at very young ages, and each had a small lamb-shaped tombstone, dating to the mid 1800s. It was as good an explanation as any to us that if there really was a ghost or ghosts, it might have been kids, since everything pretty much seemed benign and mischievous. Not that it was necessarily a ghost, mind you.

And that--in a rather large nutshell--is why I am an atheist as it pertains to religion, but an agnostic when you're talking about other supernatural happenings.

UPDATE 09/15/11: There were lots of things left out of this story, largely because I didn't have the foresight to document it as it happened. But one thing that I left out of the accounting was the discovery of a leather pouch in the rafters of the basement (basically a cellar that later got a concrete floor). We found this pouch--conically shaped, closed with a buckle. We wouldn't have paid any attention whatsoever. . .where it not for the fact that it said "Greenlee Knockout Punch." Look at the name of the blog, and see why it freaked me out.